Tag Archives: Egypt

Who Were The Mixed Multitude of the Exodus?

Long-time reader ProclaimLiberty (PL) commented yesterday some of his thoughts on the ultimate fate of the so-called “mixed multitude” who left in the Exodus from Egypt with the Children of Israel as lead by Moses (and ultimately Hashem).

He’s made such statements before, but I’ve written so many blog posts (well over 1,500) and people have made so many comments (16,658 as of this writing), that it’s hard to keep track. So I thought I’d take PL’s statements and use them as my next “meditation” so I can keep track of what he said.

I’m also doing this for the edification of my readers and anyone who happens to “surf in”.

We are typically taught that the mixed multitude were a group of non-Israelites who left Egypt with the Children of Israel to escape slavery and/or because they witnessed the awesome plagues of Hashem and wanted to follow the God of the Hebrews.

However, according to PL, and I think he’s on the right track, it’s a little more complicated than that.

The following text in italics is what PL wrote. I did some very minor editing, but otherwise the words below are his.

Any of the Mixed Multitude who actually had survived the forty-year desert trek while remaining with the tribes of Israel would have to have assimilated over the course of generations via intermarriage into one tribe or another. However, a significant number of them were responsible for the murmuring to go back to Egypt and against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. Recall how many folks died when the earth opened up and when various plagues decimated the ranks of those at fault. That would certainly have reduced the numbers among that “mixed multitude”.

Further, that phrase in Hebrew is rather like the English phrase “motley crew”, so that it did not refer solely or even primarily to a non-Jewish rabble. It would have included a lot of Jewish rabble as well, who were perhaps not sure about their specific ancestral tribal affiliation due to conditions of Egyptian slavery that would have separated children from their families of origin.

Finally, non-Jews who used the Jewish departure from Egypt as an excuse to get out along with them did not necessarily remain among the Jews as they headed out into the desert. One would have to expect that they might have attached themselves to the next passing caravan as long as it was not headed toward Egypt, and thus set off for parts unknown to make a new life for themselves, or even tried to return to some remembered ancestral homeland in Midian, Moab, Syria, Chaldea, Babylon, Sumer, or elsewhere. Of course there is no specific hint in the Exodus account regarding this last possibility; and there is no reason to expect to see one because it would be meaningless to the primary story line of the trek toward Midian where Moshe had been following sheep and encountering a burning bush on Mount Sinai, whence HaShem had commanded him to return with the people.

All in all, upon close examination, there is very little in the notion of that ancient mixed multitude for modern non-Jews to identify with or use as an excuse to justify their desire to affiliate with modern Jews. They’re much better off identifying with the Isaiah 56 foreigner or the ten Zechariah 8:23 Gentiles who are envisioned by example as grasping a single Jew’s tzitzit to request permission to come along because HaShem is with the Jewish people. Note that grasping a Jew’s tzitzit is not any sort of authorization or encouragement for non-Jews to wear them or anything like them; and that there is a subtle distinction between how the Isaiah 56 foreigners honor the Shabbat by not profaning it and how Jews were commanded actually to sanctify it.

Va’eira: Is This Egypt?

hebrew_slaves_egyptSay, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am the Lord. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God. And you shall know that I, the Lord, am your God who freed you from the labors of the Egyptians.

Exodus 6:6-7 (JPS Tanakh)

G‑d reveals Himself to Moses. Employing the “four expressions of redemption,” He promises to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them, and acquire them as His own chosen people at Mount Sinai; He will then bring them to the land He promised to the Patriarchs as their eternal heritage.

from “Va’eira in a Nutshell”
Commentary on Torah Portion “Va’eira

I had coffee with a friend after work on Wednesday. We see each other irregularly these days, but our conversations are always good. The main reason we met was because he wanted to borrow my copy of Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile. This, of course, was also one of the primary topics of our talk as I sipped my coffee and he sampled his tea.

One of the things I value about our relationship is that we don’t always see eye-to-eye. We never argue and conversations never become heated, but we do see things from different points of view. I think he’s interested if not intrigued about my return to church (although this could be projection on my part) and he struggles with the implications of going back into the church after having been “redeemed” from it. It’s an interesting metaphor.

In our discussion, he likened leaving the church to the Children of Israel leaving Egypt. It’s not a complementary picture of the church that he’s painting, but it’s one that I’ve encountered on numerous occasions during my sojourn in the Hebrew Roots movement. Egypt represents nothing good spiritually and morally and leaving Egypt is always seen as a positive action on the part of God toward the Israelites. But can non-Jewish believers leaving the church be seen in the same way? If the church equals Egypt, torment, and slavery, and being released from all that means coming closer to God, then when a Christian leaves church, where do they (we) go that is better and what do they (we) do when they get there?

Let’s back up a minute. In Judaism the process of God rescuing the ancient Hebrews from their slave status in Egypt and bringing them to Himself at Sinai involves what is called the “four expressions of redemption” based on the above-quoted Exodus 6:6-7. But what are these four expressions and what do they mean?

According to the Ask the Rabbi column at Ohr Somayach, they are:

  1. “I will take you out from under Egypt’s burdens – Vehotzeiti
  2. “And I will save you from their servitude – Vehitzalti
  3. “And I will redeem you – Vega’alti
  4. “And I will take you as My nation – Velakachti

This is actually a commentary on the four cups we see during a traditional Passover seder. The Ohr Somayach Rabbi further states:

We didn’t go from a slave nation to being the Chosen People at Mount Sinai overnight. There were different stages of redemption. The above phrases described these different stages. Each cup of wine represents one of these levels.

leaving_egyptThat’s fine as far as it goes, but to me, it’s not very revealing, especially if we are trying to compare these four expressions to how we might view a non-Jewish Christian leaving the church (which is being equated to Egypt).

OU.org expands on the meaning of the four expressions thus:

According to R. Bachya (Spain, 1263-1340), the explanations of the Four Expressions are as follows:

  1. “I will take you out” – Hashem would remove the slavery even before the Jews left Egypt, from all the Tribes of Israel, because of the growing perception by Egypt of Hashem, the G-d of Israel, as the One Almighty G-d.
  2. “I shall save you” – Hashem would take the Jews out of Egypt with plagues visited upon the Egyptians, their Pharaoh and their gods, “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.”
  3. “I shall redeem you” – Hashem would perform the miracle of “Kriat Yam Suf,” the Splitting of the waters of the “Yam Suf,” and the creation of a dry path for the Children of Israel to walk upon as they crossed the Sea of Reeds. Then Hashem caused the piled-high waters to descend in a tidal wave upon the Egyptian Army, to permanently crush the World-dominating power of Egypt.
  4. “I shall take you” – Hashem took the Jewish People to Himself as a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. This was the spiritual component of the Redemption from Egypt. In fact, the spiritual Redemption was the Reason for the Physical Redemption.

The fifth expression, “I shall bring you to the land,” refers, of course, to the Land of Israel…

I must admit, I’m having a tough time mapping what I’ve been quoting from above to any image of why Christians should leave the church and where they are supposed to go. On the other hand, I’m kind of biased and truth be told, it wasn’t that many years ago that I might have accepted my friend’s metaphor relative to the Hebrew Roots movement.

But consider this. If Hebrew Roots is supposed to be the “Sinai” for Christians leaving the church, is it an attainable goal and is it right and accurate to say the church is Egypt in a spiritual (or any other) sense?

The Christians who, throughout the ages, have propagated this message and tried to soothe the hurting, feed the hungry, and speak to social injustice have been keeping the weightier matters of the Torah. Both Yeshua (Mark 12:31) and the Sages (Rabbi Hillel in b.Shabbat 31a and Rabbi Akiva in Sifra, Kedoshim 4:12) taught that love of neighbor is the essence of Torah. These are non-trivial accomplishments which speak to the robust, biblical ethical system which many devout Christians have embraced.

-Boaz Michael
“Chapter One: The Church is Good,” pg 49
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile

You’ll have to read all of Boaz’s book to get the full flavor of why the church is good, but I believe he paints a very convincing picture of the modern “body of Christ” as it lives and breathes within the multitude of churches in our communities and around the world. Even today in the lives of people I know, Christians are doing wonderful acts of kindness in the name and spirit of Messiah.

We are seriously getting love aimed at us by a little church nearby. Out of the blue, the pastor had contacted me wanting to know if some of their members could do anything for us and he wouldn’t take no for an answer unless it really was no.

Today some amazingly nice folks showed up and hauled off to the dump our junk too big for our own vehicle, in one of the guy’s large truck.

Meanwhile, the ladies scoot in to do some cleaning while visiting with Heidi.

And meanwhile another great guy is walking me around our deck, explaining to me how he is going to prep the bannister and then paint it for us.

And they’re coming back tomorrow!

-Joe Hendricks

I originally quoted Joe in a blog I published last June. Sadly, since that time, Joe’s wife Heidi passed on, but the church he mentions continues to be a support in his life as he grieves and as he yet looks to the future by the grace of Christ.

afraid-of-churchThe church isn’t perfect. In fact, It’s taken quite awhile for me to overcome my own misgivings about going back to church (which can be reviewed in all their glorious details in my recent “Days” series, which culminated at Day Zero). In fact, I still periodically have to review Pastor Jacob Fronczak’s blog post Why I Go to Church to remind myself that a community can be imperfect and still be the will of God for the good.

So if the church isn’t Egypt, then do we have to be delivered from it? Is there someplace better to go to and what do we call it?

I can’t answer for every person out there who has once been in the church and, for whatever reasons, left it, either for some other religious organization or to pursue God as a solidary individual or family. I can only speak for myself and how I express my evolving understanding of God’s will for my life.

I don’t think we can get back to the “root” of our faith. I know that’s disappointing and maybe some of you disagree with me, but hear me out. At some point about 2,000 years ago, a sect  called “the Way” rose among the other movements in Judaism in the late Second Temple period. The Jewish disciples were devoted to a “dead Rebbe” rather than a living teacher, one who they said not only died, but rose again. He is the Mashiach, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), who sits at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 16:8, Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:33), and who is the High Priest in the Court of Heaven (Hebrews 4:14).

The “Christianity” of that moment in history was a wholly Jewish religious movement and it co-existed with numerous other Jewish movements in Roman occupied “Palestine” in those days. Acts 10 shows the first non-Jew who came into discipleship under Messiah within this sect without converting to Judaism, and the “ministry” of Paul, who as an emissary to the Gentiles, preached a Gospel not given by men but by Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). As more and more Gentiles in the diaspora began to hear the “good news” of the Jewish Messiah and apply it to their lives, slowly the Gentiles and Jews within the “Jesus movement” began to trace somewhat divergent trajectories. Those slight deviations in trajectory would later lead them on completely different paths through the progression of history, and for centuries now, they have both identified themselves as two completely different religions that once shared a common point.

Should Christians seek to leave the church and travel backward across the timeline, trying to recapture whatever idealized or “perfected” Christianity that may (or may not) have existed somewhere around the mid 40s CE? Is it even possible?

Or does the path that God has set before us lead forward into the future…a future that will summon the risen Messiah to come out of the sky in the clouds (Revelation 1:7), who will redeem his people Israel, and who will also gather his disciples from the nations? If this future-oriented path is the true one, then perhaps there is no “perfect Christianity” to go back into upon “leaving the church.” Regardless of whatever Christian or Jewish worship venue to which you are attached (including any form of Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism), chances are, you don’t belong to a perfect community. Chances are people in your congregation make mistakes. Chances are, when scrutinized by the King of All Glory, your theology may not be absolutely and totally 100% “kosher.”

Chances are, there is no perfect church, synagogue, community, or congregation for you or for any of us to join upon leaving “church.” Face it. All congregations that involve human beings and human relationships are “messy.” We have to start with where we are, not where we’d like to be.

Yes, the church could be improved. That’s the other very valuable (to me) chapter in Boaz’s book, “Chapter 2: The Church Needs to Change.” Frankly, we could also probably say, relative to God’s perfect understanding, that the synagogue needs to change as well. A better way to say it is that we all need to change, to be better, to draw nearer to God, to refine our understanding of who He is and who we are in Him, Jew and Christian alike. We travel upon our divergent trajectories but we have one Shepherd and one King, and God is One. Not that our ultimate unity under Him as His “peoples” means uniformity, but it does mean unity of devotion and fealty.

The Messiah will come. He will return Israel to its place as the head of all the nations, rebuild the Temple, defeat evil, and establish a reign of peace and tranquility for all peoples of the earth. All the Jewish people will be gathered unto him in their nation Israel, and we believers who reside across the four corners of the Earth will bow our knees to him and call him Lord over all (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10). That is our future.

But we’re not there yet.

two-roads-joinWe have to start where we are. If we are non-Jewish Christians in church, we should stay in church. We should bring our understanding of the Jewish Messiah King to where we are, not remove it from our fellow believers and hoard it for ourselves. If we are Gentiles in a Messianic community, then we should stay there (though there may be exceptions who will also attend a church) and use other platforms for communicating our understanding to the Christians we know or will come to know (compare to 1 Corinthians 7:18). For myself, I go to church not to change anything but to encounter God and His purpose for me, whatever it may be.

We may not always see the good in the church but it’s there. We may not see it because when we were introduced to the Hebrew Roots movement (for those of you reading this who are or were involved in Hebrew Roots), we were told the “church is Egypt.” However, if it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a look at the church, at the Christians in your community, at the believers you work with, live near, and consider friends, maybe it’s time you took another look. There are indeed two paths involved, but they’re not the two you have been imagining.

There are two paths:

One: Everything is for the good. Perhaps not immediately, but eventually good will come out from it.

The other: Everything is truly good—because there is nothing else but He who is Good. It’s just a matter of holding firm a little longer, unperturbed by the phantoms of our limited vision, unimpressed by the paper tiger that calls itself a world, and eventually we will be granted a heart to understand and eyes to see.

Eventually, it will become obvious good in our world as well.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Believing in G-d”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

To modify Rabbi Freeman’s commentary slightly, everything we encounter is for the good, and eventually good will be demonstrated by the church. We must be patient and help as we can. Also, everything in church is truly good because nothing else exists in our world but God who is Good (Mark 10:18). It’s just a matter of us holding on a little longer where we are, not allowing our limited vision of how we see Christianity to limit God’s work in the church.

Eventually, the good of God and of the body of Christ in our world will become obvious to us as the time for the return of our Master draws near.

Good Shabbos.

Vayigash: Settling Into Prosperity and Captivity

jewish-handsIn 468 CE, Rabbi Amemar, Rabbi Mesharsheya and Rabbi Huna, the heads of Babylonian Jewry, were arrested and executed 11 days later. The Jewish community of Babylon had existed for 900 years, ever since Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Israel, destroyed the Holy Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon. Seventy years later, when the Jews were permitted to return to Israel, a large percentage remained in Babylon — and this eventually became the center of Jewish rabbinic authority. Things began to worsen in the 5th century, when the Persian priests, fighting against encroaching Christian missionaries, unleashed anti-Christian persecutions which caught the Jews of Babylonia in its wake. Eventually the situation improved, and Babylon remained as the center of Jewish life for another 500 years.

-Rabbi Shraga Simmons
“Today in Jewish History, 7 Tevet”

Thus Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings in it, and were fertile and increased greatly.

Genesis 47:27 (JPS Tanakh)

It’s hard not to compare these two events. Both of them describe different points in the process of the Jewish people going down into a land not their own and then making themselves comfortable there and thriving. As we see in the Babylonian example, the “good times” don’t last forever, but from Jacob’s point of view, this isn’t readily apparent. In fact, he had assurances that dwelling in Egypt was the right thing to do.

So Israel set out with all that was his, and he came to Beer-sheba, where he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God called to Israel in a vision by night: “Jacob! Jacob!” He answered, “Here.” And He said, “I am God, the God of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

So Jacob set out from Beer-sheba. The sons of Israel put their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him; and they took along their livestock and the wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan. Thus Jacob and all his offspring with him came to Egypt: he brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons, his daughters and granddaughters — all his offspring.

Genesis 46:1-7 (JPS Tanakh)

God’s blessing upon Jacob as we see above, is the beginning of the process of Israel dwelling in Egypt, multiplying greatly, and thriving there. However, the other end of the story is hardly so pleasant.

A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.” So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor; and they built garrison cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out, so that the [Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites.

The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites the various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field.

The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, saying, “When you deliver the Hebrew women, look at the birthstool: if it is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”

Exodus 1:8-16 (JPS Tanakh)

rabbi-prayingThe irony in making the above comparisons, is that the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet is just a few days away.

The Fast of the Tenth of Teves marks the day that Nevuzadran, the Babylonian general, laid siege to Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the first Holy Temple. The siege lasted almost three years until the city walls were breached and the Temple was destroyed. This was the beginning of a long line of disasters on the Jewish people, including the first exile, and the destruction of the second Temple.

This day is commemorated by refraining from eating or drinking from sunrise to nightfall.

While the last sentence of this week’s Torah portion is one of hope and prosperity for the Children of Israel, it is ominously foreshadowed by what we know will occur after the death of Joseph and his brothers. This is the fate of the Jewish people that we’ve seen enacted again and again across history since the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 CE and to this very day, when the Jews settle in an area, develop a robust and prolific community, and then are persecuted, robbed, maligned, murdered, and exiled.

On his blog, my friend Gene Shlomovich posted an extremely telling example of how Christianity in the “bad old days” expected and enforced Jewish conversion to Christianity. I invite you to click the link I just provided and read the whole story. It’s not a pretty picture, and many Jews chose to be tortured and die rather than to abandon the God of their Fathers and the Torah of Truth, and replace them with the “lure” of the “Goyishe Jesus.”

What am I saying here? That Christians are perpetually bad and that Jews should do anything in their power to blame the church for the hideous way it has historically treated Jewish people? Is that what the upcoming fast is all about? Not according to Rabbi Raymond Beyda

The purpose of fasting almost 2500 years after the events of the destruction took place is to awaken our hearts today to repentance. Our sages teach that anyone who lives at a time when there is no Bet Hamikdash must realize that had he or she lived when the Temple stood that his or her behavior would contribute to its destruction. Should we mend our ways and remove from our lives the behavior that brings destruction we will bring about the construction of the third Temple — the one that will never be destroyed — and the coming of Mashiah speedily in our days. May we all spend the day productively contributing to that end — Amen.

This is not to excuse the church for its crimes or to pardon any of the peoples and nations who have harassed and abused the Jewish people over the long centuries, but we must separate history from current events. Yes, hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel is still rampant in our world and there are many accounts in the media that indicate it is on the upswing. However, there are also many churches that have significantly revised and improved their (our) understanding of Jews and Judaism, and they (we) have repented and seek to understand our “Jewish roots,” while also honoring that God created a unique covenant people and nation in Israel who remain unique and special to the current day.

But the Jewish people have only one nation, Israel. While, in most parts of the world, Jews are welcome, and flourish, and are fully integrated within the countries and societies where they dwell, we see from history that there is such a thing as being too integrated, and certainly assimilation takes Jews to the point of no longer being recognizably Jewish. What the ancient church attempted and failed to do by force is now being accomplished voluntarily.

Judaism is being destroyed by assimilation and integration, which in effect, means Jews are, without realizing it, renouncing all that it is to be a Jew for the sake of national, social, and cultural belonging. But for those Jews who fully retain their unique ethnic, covenant, and halakhic identity as Jews, the danger they face living in the nations is the same danger the Jews faced in 468 CE in Babylon, and the same danger they faced in the 1930s in Germany.

joseph_egyptAnd it’s the same danger we find them facing this week as Jacob and his family settle comfortably in Goshen, which is in Egypt, and ruled by Pharaoh. Today, as we read Vayigash, Pharoah, King of Egypt knows Joseph and seeks to continue the profitable relationship between Egypt and Jacob’s family. Tomorrow, a new Pharoah will arise who does not know Joseph. That’s the way it’s always happened. Jews believe it will happen again.

According to the Talmud, as the Messianic era approaches, the world will experience greater and greater turmoil: Vast economic fluctuations, social rebellion, and widespread despair. The culmination will be a world war of immense proportion led by King Gog from the land of Magog. This will be a war the likes of which have not been seen before. This will be the ultimate war of good against evil, in which evil will be entirely obliterated. (Ezekiel ch. 38, 39; Zechariah 21:2, 14:23; Talmud – Sukkah 52, Sanhedrin 97, Sotah 49)

What is the nature of this cataclysmic war? Traditional Jewish sources state that the nations of the world will descend against the Jews and Jerusalem. The Crusades, Pogroms and Arab Terrorism will pale in comparison. Eventually, when all the dust settles, the Jews will be defeated and led out in chains. The Torah will be proclaimed a falsehood.

“End of Days”
from the “Ask the Rabbi” series

Israel and her people, the Jewish people, will be rescued when Moshiach comes. But until then, we in the church have a responsibility to make sure the Holocaust or anything like it does not happen again in our towns, in our cities, and in our nations. In solidarity, we can also fast on the Tenth of Tevet, which this year is on Sunday, December 23rd.

Peace be upon Jerusalem and may the Messiah come soon and in our day.

Good Shabbos.